New Zealand’s trade surplus has widened as Chinese demand for dairy products continues to soar, driving the monthly and annual export receipts to new records.
The trade surplus was $NZ920 million in March, from a revised $NZ793m in February, and $NZ732m a year earlier, according to Statistics New Zealand.
The annual trade balance was a surplus of $NZ805m, or 1.6 per cent of exports.
Economists polled by Reuters predicted a monthly surplus of $NZ937m and an annual surplus of $NZ920m.
Exports climbed 15 per cent to $NZ5.08b in March, for an annual increase of 8.5 per cent to $NZ50.07b. That was the first time New Zealand’s international sales topped $NZ5b in a month and $NZ50b in a year.
Milk powder, butter and cheese exports advanced 45 per cent to $NZ1.53b in March for an annual increase of 31 per cent to $NZ14.92b, while casein and caseinates gained 17 per cent to $NZ93m for an annual lift of 7.5 per cent to $NZ988m. Dairy products accounted for about 30 per cent of all exports.
“While March tends to be the peak month for exports, this was also a record high in seasonally adjusted terms,” Westpac Banking Corp senior economist Michael Gordon said in a note.
“Dairy products were down nine per cent by volume, but there were increases in exports of meat, oil and machinery.”
Meat and edible offal sales rose 12 per cent to $NZ731m for a 4.1 per cent annual gain to $NZ5.5b, while exports of logs, wood and wood articles gained 14 per cent to $NZ385m for an annual lift of 24 per cent to $NZ4.05b.
Imports rose 13 per cent to $NZ4.16b for an annual lift of 5.5 per cent to $NZ49.26b. The monthly figure included a one-off $NZ216m import of a drilling platform.
Exports to China jumped 31 per cent to $NZ1.13b in March for an annual gain of 51 per cent to $NZ11.19b, or 22 per cent of all exports.